Musk’s Hyperloop and How It Was Brought to Life Using 3D Printing

Musk’s Hyperloop and How It Was Brought to Life Using 3D Printing

Billionaire entrepreneur, Elon Musk, loves to take on tough technical challenges and turn them into business opportunities. His portfolio is definitely diverse; revolutionizing online payment services with Paypal, building the first electric-car company with Tesla Motors and launching the first commercial space transportation companies with SpaceX are just some of the feats he has accomplished in his career. While these are big challenges, his proposed Hyperloop transportation system, which he unveiled last Monday as a faster and lower-cost alternative to the high-speed train service between San Francisco and Los Angeles, may be his toughest challenge yet.

The Hyperloop would consist of carlike capsules traveling at near the speed of sound through enclosed tubes, with each capsule containing about 28 passengers each. These capsules would ride on pockets of air and are propelled by a linear induction motor. They would travel through a low-pressure air system that would limit resistance and friction without requiring the amount needed to maintain a complete vacuum.

“The high-level concept doesn’t violate any fundamental laws of physics,” said John Hansman, a professor of aeronautics and astronautics at MIT. But he added: “I’m not sure whether the details work.”

According to Musk, the system would cost just $6 billion to build and get passengers from Los Angeles to San Francisco in just 35 minutes – moving passengers 5 times as fast at just one-tenth the price of the current rail system.

While Musk promises that the Hyperloop transportation system will bring many benefits, there is much controversy as to whether the system is feasible or not.  While musk has laid out a rough estimate as to the price of the Hyperloop, he has ignored development costs, which are likely to heavily increase the cost of construction. It is not the manufacturing costs which worry the developers but the development costs.

Another concern is that the fast-moving capsules can respond poorly to even a slight misalignment of the tubes. Richard Muller, physics professor at UC Berkeley says that he has gone from it the wrong way. Musk laid out his proposal before actually prototyping it, which may lead to many practical problems. These problems include issues with the energy required and safety concerns of the system, as it could be affected not only by mundane threats such as dirt and grime but also terrorist attacks due to its novelty and vulnerability.

The model of Elon Musk’s futuristic Hyperloop system has been created using 3D printing when designers at 3D-printing company, WhiteClouds, built the desktop-size model in less than 24 hours.

WhiteClouds CEO Jerry Ropelato challenged a team of five designers to create the model. "I thought it would be fun and interesting to take what we do every day and make the Hyperloop concept into something real," Ropelato said in a statement. "This really demonstrates the possibilities 3D printing offers," said Ropelato, who is the former CEO and current board member of LiveScience parent company TechMedia Network.

Three different 3D printers were used to build each part, layer by layer, using a CAD model. The Connex 500 printer was used to make the pillars, the ProJet 3500 HDMax was used to make the tubes and the ZPrinter650 was used to make the station platforms and the pods. After the individual parts were printed, the team assembled the various parts to make a complete system.

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